Over the last few weeks I have been observing the wildlife living next to the river. While walking along the boardwalk I noticed that a few of the trees along the boardwalk have fallen prey to a pesky herbivore! The trees had been stripped of most of their leaves and covered in strange webs! A few visitors were concerned that it was the work of large numbers of spiders and asked me about it. I soon found the answer was not spiders as a few had thought, but actually moth caterpillars!
Ermine moth caterpillars are easily spotted at this time of year due to the large silken webs they spin for protection. They can be found on a variety of tree species but on the reserve they are mostly associated with willows. They will eat their way through all the leaves of the tree leaving it look fairly bare, before forming cocoons and going into pupation. By this time of the year, the moths will have emerged and can be spotted fluttering along the undergrowth.
Though moths are generally associated as being nocturnal, there are actually many species which are active during the day, so can sometimes be mistaken for butterflies.
Bye for now!
Alex Kekewich – Falls of Clyde Ranger